After years of denial, Peoria diocese admitted extensive sexual abuse by Illinois monsignor

The Journal Star [Peoria IL]

June 1, 2023

By Leslie Renken

Norman D. Goodman had risen in the ranks of the Catholic Church to the status of monsignor, a title bestowed by the pope. As such, he was protected by his employer when allegations of abuse arose – there were a total of 19 confirmed cases, according to the Illinois Attorney General’s report on abusive priests.

“Jacob,” a pseudonym given to one of the victims in the report, was in 6th grade and an altar boy at Holy Family Church in Lincoln when Goodman began fondling him. The priest approached the boy from behind, pressing him against a counter or sink. Sometimes Goodman put money down Jacob’s pants pocket as an excuse to touch his genitals. The abuse continued for three years, ending around 1983. 

Jacob told his family of the abuse in the late 1990s. Initially he wanted to keep the news quiet, but changed his mind after speaking to diocesan representatives and their lawyers. Jacob asked the diocese to acknowledge the abuse and remove Goodman from ministry so he wouldn’t be a danger to other children. Jacob also wanted Goodman to offer a public apology. The diocese did not agree to any of those terms. 

Though Goodman was forced to retire not long after, probably in response to additional allegations, he was not sent away in disgrace; he was lauded and painted as a victim. After his retirement, Goodman continued to show up in Lincoln, sitting in playgrounds at the school and around town, and at the public pool. 

Although one allegation against Goodman was forwarded to the Logan County State Attorney’s office, the priest was not charged. The Diocese of Peoria responded with a press release which said they were pleased with the decision and “steadfastly believed in Msgr. Goodman’s innocence… The Peoria Diocese is confident the issue will now be put to rest, and those involved will get on with their lives.” 

The statement further motivated Jacob to secure a satisfactory resolution for himself and other victims, but Jacob continued to be disappointed with the diocese’s response. During one mediation a senior official – the same priest who lauded Goodman at his retirement – said, “If you have such a problem with it, you need to catch [Goodman’s] hand in the cookie jar.”

Jacob asked if the “cookie jar” was a child’s pants, and the priest replied, “I know. Whatever. Just catch him.” 

Goodman was finally placed on permanent leave in 2002, and the allegations of abuse were officially acknowledged by the diocese. Goodman died in 2013. 

Though Jacob initially wanted to keep the abuse he suffered quiet, he has become an advocate for victims across the country and the world. He has traveled from Dallas to Boston and Australia to Rome connecting survivors, attorneys and advocacy groups in an ongoing effort to promote healing and ensure accountability. To this day, he is disappointed with the response of the Catholic church. 

“What they did to us, and still do, when you’re in a religion, you have a level of ethics, morals, or decorum,” he said. “I had never considered in a million years that that would not be present.”